Tuesday, November 24

Must-Reads of the Week | Kaiser Health News


While you, loyal reader, wait for a wonderful new permanent Friday Breeze writer to start breezing, welcome to this week’s rundown brought to you from St. Louis by me, Midwest correspondent Lauren Weber.

I’m sadly here to inform you the news is … still bad. So bad, in fact, that “doomscrolling” — the act of not being able to escape your smartphone feed of misery — was examined by The New York Times.

And that’s because all you need to know about the current state of the coronavirus can be aptly summed up in renowned infectious disease reporter Helen Branswell’s latest piece for Stat, titled “How to Fix the Covid-19 Dumpster Fire in the U.S.”

The Week’s Latest

But to be more precise: New coronavirus cases in the U.S. shattered a single-day record with over 75,000 Thursday. That number of daily cases has more than doubled since June 24. Deaths from COVID-19 are rising yet again while hot spots across the Sun Belt continue to flare. The Center for Public Integrity uncovered an unreleased federal document saying 18 states are in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases and should consider stricter protective measures.

And as outbreaks strain lab capacity nationwide, some people are waiting seven or more days to get test results, hobbling potential containment responses. Now, the CDC is urging people to not be retested.

Masks, Schools and Tony Fauci

Mass mask confusion continued to drive the week, with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her mandatory mask order. Later, he urged all citizens to wear masks for four weeks — but said he would not support a mandate. Meanwhile, Georgia hospital workers are sounding the alarm and attempting to send patients out of state as hospitals fill up. Across the country, more than half of states have issued mandatory mask orders at this time. And this detailed map of just who is wearing masks in the U.S. is worth your time.

The sharp divide over back-to-school plans for those in public and private school came into focus (private schools have the money to hire their own epidemiologists!), all while Bloomberg reported the percentage of cases of children and teens with COVID-19 is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention postponed releasing further guidance on how students could safely return to school this week. That follows previous complaints from President Donald Trump, who said on Twitter the CDC’s initial recommendations were too tough. Or, as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday, “The science should not stand in the way of this.”

The big distraction of the week had to be the attacks on the reputation of America’s favorite scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He withstood a White House attack on his credibility, led by Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade adviser, in an op-ed in USA Today — one that USA Today has since said “did not meet its fact-checking standards.” To his credit, Fauci called to “stop this nonsense” and focus on the coronavirus. For more of a deep dive on the ongoing fireworks, check out this week’s amazing-as-usual episode of KHN’s “What the Health?” podcast. And never forget that Fauci did manage to sneak in this InStyle digital cover with some killer shades and he read a college kid’s thesis on the side during his tenure.

Speaking of op-eds, here’s one worth reading. Larry Hogan, Maryland’s Republican governor, wrote an op-ed about how he felt the Trump administration left his state to fend for itself amid the pandemic. Best part: how he and his wife, who was born and raised in South Korea, were able to secure half a million tests by going outside of the federal response, tapping into her contacts and then protecting them from the feds with the state National Guard.

The disappearance of public data from the CDC website created another firestorm this week. While the data has been restored, it’s another chapter in the saga of tension among the CDC, the administration and public access.

Pocket Change

The insurer UnitedHealthcare posted its most profitable quarter — EVER — proving that, yes, you can get rich during the pandemic. Meanwhile, hospitals face the harsh reality of a surge colliding with their plans to resume profitable elective surgery.

And, no, you won’t be getting on a cruise ship anytime soon — the “no sail” order from the CDC has been extended through September 2020.

Long Reads and Graphics Worth Your Time

Racial inequities in COVID exposure, treatment and care persist at every level, as this piece zeroing in on East St. Louis shows. And this week, over 1,000 employees of the CDC sent a letter to its head calling out systemic racism within the agency.

I still can’t stop thinking about this profile of Lorna Breen, an ER doc who took her own life after becoming overwhelmed not only by the coronavirus crisis but by an exacting medical culture.

These New York Times graphics stress how drug overdose deaths hit a new high in 2019 — many worry the coronavirus is exacerbating their continued rise.

Finally, What’s Abuzz

In case you didn’t have anything else to worry about, mosquitoes are flying into the blind spots of health departments overwhelmed with COVID-19. The CDC is buzzing with concern, as Anna Maria Barry-Jester and I reported yesterday as part of our Underfunded and Under Threat series with the AP.

And for a speed round, these guys tried really hard to hand out free masks at Huntington Beach, California; the inside tale of how a Qatari prince had USC at his beckoning takes many a turn; and you just may have been using hand sanitizer wrong this whole time.

Try to lay off the booze, folks — experts say it’s only supposed to be a drink a day. Also maybe, just maybe, think about staying away from the bars altogether.

If we have a football season — a big IF — here’s what the “mouth shield” helmets would look like.

Plus superhero heartthrob Henry Cavill somehow spent his quarantine staying swole AND learning how to build computers?

But our favorite British superhero might just be Tom Moore, newly knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. The centenarian captured the world’s heart after raising millions for British health care workers by walking laps in his garden with his walker.





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